Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 64, Issue 6, pp 899–913 | Cite as

Do social networks of female northern long-eared bats vary with reproductive period and age?

  • Krista J. Patriquin
  • Marty L. Leonard
  • Hugh G. Broders
  • Colin J. Garroway
Original Paper


Social structure, which is a function of the patterns of interactions among individuals, is particularly variable in fission–fusion societies. The underlying factors that drive this variation are poorly understood. Female northern long-eared bats (Myotis septentrionalis) live in fission–fusion societies where females form preferred associations within groups that vary daily in size and composition as individuals switch roosts. The goal of our study was to test the predictions that preferred associations and social networks of female northern long-eared bats vary with reproductive period and age. We also tested the prediction that preferred relationships persist across years despite movements from summer roosts to winter hibernacula. Network analyses revealed that during gestation, females roosted in smaller groups where they roosted more regularly with fewer individuals than during lactation. This variation may reflect different social strategies to mediate higher energetic costs during lactation. Females of all ages roosted more often with younger individuals, which in turn had more direct and indirect associations than all other age classes. Younger individuals may play a role in maintaining connections between individuals, perhaps as a result of younger individuals being more exploratory. Temporal analyses suggested that relationships can persist for years as some pairs roosted together for multiple summers. We suggest that the dynamic nature of fission–fusion societies is associated with individual strategies to increase fitness relative to individual characteristics, in this case reproductive condition and age.


Associations Bat Fission–fusion Myotis septentrionalis Social networks Social structure 



We are grateful to Jessica Corkum, Luke Dodd, Jenny Dufreche, Taiadjana Fortuna, Erin Hennessey, and Florent Valetti for assistance in the field. We also thank Hal Whitehead, David Lusseau, and Wade Blanchard for useful discussion of analyses. Jeff Bowman, Andrew Horn, Robert Ronconi, and three anonymous reviewers provided comments on the manuscript. The research was supported by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Canada Graduate Scholarship D, Dalhousie University Faculty of Graduate Studies Scholarship, and Patrick F. Lett Graduate Student Assistance Bursary to KJP. The research was also supported by NSERC Discovery Grants to MLL and HGB. Funding was also provided by the Nova Scotia Species at Risk Conservation Fund and Nova Scotia Habitat Conservation Fund. Considerable in-kind support was provided by the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources.

Statement of integrity of research and reporting

This study was conducted according to the standards of the Dalhousie University Committee on Laboratory Animals, the Canadian Council on Animal Care, and the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Act. The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Krista J. Patriquin
    • 1
  • Marty L. Leonard
    • 1
  • Hugh G. Broders
    • 2
  • Colin J. Garroway
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of BiologyDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada
  2. 2.Department of BiologySaint Mary’s UniversityHalifaxCanada
  3. 3.Environmental and Life Sciences Graduate ProgramTrent UniversityPeterboroughCanada

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